In a tele-town hall Thursday night, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp continued to defend his decision not to put in place a statewide shelter-in-place order, like many other states have done.
He said while that makes sense in areas like Atlanta, which has the most cases in the state, he is balancing the rest of Georgia. Some locations have no confirmed cases.
He urged Georgians as individuals to take ownership of their role in fighting the virus.
“Because it is going to be us. It is going to be us as Georgians to beat this virus back,” he said. “There is no cure right now. There is no vaccine. It is up to all of us to get educated, to do our part and be victorious in this battle.”
Georgia’s Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey affirmed this strategy.
“If you look at CDC guidelines, the guidelines are tailored to the community,” she said.
“We, in some cases, can be doing contact tracing very aggressively still where the spread is relatively slow. In other areas like Albany, we really need to be doing very aggressive community mitigation. So it depends on the community where you are located in.”
Toomey said we have a chance “to mitigate this” in a way through selective testing, and she argued major community intervention is the best decision when the virus has spread broadly in a community, like Atlanta and Albany.
Kemp also promised to “do everything we can with the power of the state government” to help the Georgians who have been left without work during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
The state processed nearly 12,000 unemployment claims last week, more than twice the number from the week before. And on Thursday, Kemp issued an executive order, which extends the time frame when people can receive unemployment benefits.
He said these people’s financial situation “tugs on me every single day.”
He promised that someone’s financial situation or immigration status will not get in the way of coronavirus testing or treatment.
“Anybody that needs a test will be eligible to get one at no cost, and certainly it’s the same for treatment,” Kemp said.
Toomey pointed out that the state might already be reaping some of the benefits of the social-distancing measure, particularly in Rome, which was an early hot spot for the virus in the state.
“We have seen now that cases seem to be leveling off, but it takes a minute,” she said. “Remember, this virus has an incubation period of up to about two weeks. So you’re not going to see immediate action. And the idea isn’t that we will prevent every case, but that we will slow the spread.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms spoke at the tele-town hall as well, and she specifically addressed what efforts are being made to help the state’s homeless population during the pandemic. She said an “angel donor” had donated the use of a hotel for homeless people to quarantine in.
Bottoms, who put in place a citywide shelter-in-place order last week, said,”If it were my call, I would have a stay-at-home order for the entire country … but I certainly understand and respect the governor’s position that he’s balancing diverse constituencies.”
Toomey also noted that while Georgians suffering from spring pollen allergies might cause some of them to worry about whether they have the coronavirus, she pointed out that the symptoms are very different.